Dandenong CBD

Addressing Place-based Disadvantage in Southern Melbourne

Moving beyond reports about disadvantage to figuring out how to address it systemically.

We started by summarising what was already know about disadvantage in the region (from statistics and previous reports), and the we tested the results through stakeholder research which uncovered enough insights for us to develop seven evidenced-based prototypes that could address disadvantage in the region.

Our insights from research and stakeholder testing have led us to develop six evidenced-based prototypes that could address disadvantage in the region.

The situation

The Southern Melbourne region has one of the highest unemployment rates in Victoria:

  • In some pockets of the region, the unemployment rate exceeds 20 %
  • Over a quarter of families with children under 15 are jobless
  • 40% of people have no post-school qualifications

This is despite having around 180 programs to address disadvantage in the region, and paradoxically, a known range of entry-level vacancies that employers can’t fill.

Our vision

Addressing disadvantage in Southern Melbourne needs different approaches to create real outcomes.

We identified six action areas:

  1. Access to transport – and transport that connected jobseekers to employers
  2. Understanding manufacturing as a key current and future employment engine
  3. Responding to the diverse reasons for why people are unemployed
  4. Recognising the importance of networks for employers and jobseekers
  5. Addressing the fragmentation and difficulties with navigation in the current service system
  6. Focusing funding on transformative outcomes rather than short-term outputs.

Our approach

In this project we mixed statistical data analysis with insights from employers, service providers and service users.  We used the combined data to identify and test key action points that could shift outcomes in addressing disadvantage in the region.  From this investigation we developed six prototypes.

In Australia, the most disadvantaged communities have remained in the bottom 10th percentile for the past two decades, despite significant investment and countless programs.

It’s time to do things different – to connect up data with insights from people at the frontline. It’s time for a different kind of action that actually creates outcomes.

TACSI insights

Based on these action areas we developed some initial prototype projects that could, together, demonstrate how moving beyond traditional approaches could shift outcomes. 

  • An employment focused community transport initiative, developed by and with employers to connect local people to local jobs
  • A campaign to promote a thriving local future for manufacturing and showcase employment pathways with local manufacturers
  • A platform to connect employers and jobseekers – bridging the gap between employers who are filling vacancies via their extended networks, and unemployed jobseekers, who often have fewer networks that stretch to employers
  • A local ‘career support’ model that is demand-driven, person-centred, not school specific and that has direct links to employers
  • An innovative impact-focussed hiring process that assists local employers to fill vacancies and links local people disadvantaged in the labour market to quality jobs
  • A local commissioning framework that joins up services for outcomes.


Prototyping and refining responses to disadvantage in Australia is still counter-cultural.

Most responses are planned and then rolled-out for piloting, meaning that we don’t know whether they will work to achieve outcomes until a great deal of money and time has been invested. 

Prototyping offers a way to try, test and learn about potential solutions quickly and with a relatively small investment. 

However it also requires a degree of openness to try something different and confidence to learn by doing. So, the response to this project was for one local body to prototype just one response, so that they could build their confidence and capacity in prototyping.  The outcomes from this prototyping phase have not yet been released.

Next steps

TACSI has undertaken a series of projects in using place-based approaches to address disadvantage.

We now have a strong base of evidence about what works, and what conditions and capabilities need to be in place to support local organizations and institutions to undertake a collaborative approach. 

We are now seeking places who wish to go further than undertaking insights work that could support better outcomes – but who are willing to try, test and learn in the process of implementing transformative services and structures that could deliver better outcomes.